Family Addiction Recovery: A Blog
Codependency No More! How to Recover from Self-Love Deficit Disorder
Ross Rosenberg has pioneered 15 principles that help his patients resolve their painful dysfunctional relationships patterns.
Have you been stuck in multiple relationships that bring mostly conflict and almost no joy? If this is your pattern, you may be suffering from what Ross Rosenberg calls “Self-Love Deficit Disorder”.
When a therapist colleague and friend recently asked me to explain what Self-Love Deficit Disorder is and how to treat it—I panicked. Although I love talking about my latest discoveries, especially my renaming of codependency to Self-Love Deficit Disorder. I paused to think of the best response. Being fatigued from seeing six psychotherapy clients that day, I considered using the therapist’s conversation maneuver of avoiding the subject by asking a similarly difficult question about a topic on which the client loves to talk. My second impulse was to skirt the question by explaining that the answers are best explained in my latest seminar video—the six-hour “Codependency Cure.”
These discoveries organically materialized in my life as a direct result of my need to heal emotional wounds and to tear down the emotional, personal, and relational barriers keeping me from experiencing self-love.
My third impulse, the best one, was to proudly and enthusiastically share my “children” with yet another person. Those who know me well understand how my Human Magnet Syndrome, Codependency Cure, and Self-Love Deficit theories and explanations are byproducts of my own family of origin issues (trauma), my roller-coaster journey to recover from it, and the joy of learning to live free from codependency. These discoveries organically materialized in my life as a direct result of my need to heal emotional wounds and to tear down the emotional, personal, and relational barriers keeping me from experiencing self-love. This is not just a set of theories I like to talk about, but a personal mission that I plan to be on for the rest of my life.
Although I wasn’t excited about the prospect of talking shop at that moment, I tapped into a well of energy and enthusiasm that gave me the much needed boost to give a condensed rendering of my latest work. But this time, I set a boundary (for me and them): it would only be a fifteen-minute explanation! I figured since I had already given many radio interviews, written many articles, created training courses, and, of course, been a psychotherapist for 29 years, it would be a piece of cake.
And ... I did with time to spare! Knowing that others might ask me the same question again or would benefit from a similarly condensed rendition of my conceptual and theoretical work, I decided to create a written version of this discussion.
The following are my 18 guiding principles of Self-Love Deficit Disorder and The Human Magnet Syndrome.
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How do you get your nearest and dearest to change their behavior? Simple: Stop giving a damn what they do, says Martha Beck.
“Now my whole family is abusing me!” said Loretta, a client at a women’s resource center where I volunteered back in the ‘90s. “If I leave my husband, it’ll just be out of the frying pan and into the fire.”
“Are you — “ I cut myself off before finishing my thought, which was, “Are you crazy?” Just the week before, I’d participated in an intervention where Loretta’s family had urged her to leave her battering husband, Rex. Each person had expressed enormous love for and protectiveness toward Loretta. Now she thought they were all abusers? Huh?
“They’re just like Rex,” she said. “You saw it. They judge me. They criticize me. Nothing I do is enough for them.”
I opened my mouth, then closed it. Opened then closed it again. I kept that up for about a minute, like a perplexed goldfish, as I groped for the right thing to say. It killed me that Loretta was interpreting her family’s desire to rescue her as criticism and judgment. But even as I tried to come up with the kindest possible phrasing for “What the hell is wrong with you?” I knew my question would come across like a slap.
That’s when it dawned on me that Loretta had a point. No, her family wasn’t abusing her the way Rex did — and yet in its own way, their treatment of her must have felt like an attack. They weren’t accepting her as she was. They needed her to change. They raised their voices, made demands, pushed hard. And their intense negative emotions were triggering her fear and defensiveness.
It was in the midst of processing all this that I suddenly heard myself say, “Well, Loretta, I just love you. I don’t care what happens to you.”
The statement shocked me as it left my lips. But even as I mentally smacked myself upside the head, a funny thing happened: Loretta visibly relaxed. I could feel my own anxiety vanishing, too, leaving a quiet space in which I could treat Loretta kindly. It was true — I really didn’t care what happened to her. No matter what she did, I wouldn’t love her one bit less.
Since then I’ve found that loving without caring is a useful approach — I’d venture to say the best approach — in most relationships, especially families. If you think that’s coldhearted, think again. It may be time you let yourself love more by caring less.
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Timothy Harrington is passionate about helping family members of the addicted loved one awaken to their own power and purpose.